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The ethics of xenotransplantation

If we could develop liver transplants from pigs, would that be a good thing? Steven Ivy, senior vice president for values, ethics, social responsibility and pastoral services at Indiana University Health, spoke of the ethical issues involved in "Xenotransplantation: Ethical Practices in the Lab and Clinic" at the Nov. 17 Health Care Ethics Seminar.

Ivy noted that the need for organs to transplant far exceeds the number available from human donors. He noted some research in the area of growing pigs for their livers and the potential to use those livers in transplants.

Ivy said that any research or development in this area must include good care for the animals and controlling pain. He also noted the possibility of using stem cells and scaffolding (perhaps pig, perhaps human) to grow new livers. He suggested society needs to consider research that is ethically defensible, but is also the best use of time and money.